I recently got the chance to speak on a panel at my church’s college group all about dating and relationships. The night was entitled “Donuts & Dating” which caused more than one friend to ask me, “Did they name this night in your honor…?!”
One of my favorite things and one thing I happen to write about… a lot. It did seem pretty fitting. I am a self-proclaimed donut expert, and well known enthusiast, after all.
It was so fun getting to speak on a subject I talk about all the time, but typically to the public internet of strangers and not in front of real people. It was also so fun to speak alongside the panelists – 3 other people who I respect and admire. Also, ironically, 3 married people – so it was me and three marrieds discussing dating. Totally normal.
In the very first blog post I ever wrote about dating, I pointed out that I am not an expert on love, dating, relationships, orrrrrr anything, really. Since then I’ve written quite a bit all about those very things, and people have assumed I’m some relationship guru. After the panel last week, people came up to me to ask if they should break up with someone, what to do about being on a break, how to go about being recently single. I was happy to help, but also had to laugh – I’m no professional here. At a friend’s party this weekend, I was introduced as “the girl who gives really good dating advice” and I even had a line quoted back to me about dating I told a friend years ago, that he has since made his mantra about relationships. I’ve been recognized as “the girl who writes about singleness” or “the girl who’s always talking about dating” many, many times.
I’m not going to lie, it’s cool knowing my voice is valued and my opinions are validated. It’s also pretty strange and, at times, overwhelming.
Hate to break it to you, I don’t have all the answers. However, I do: have lots and lots and lots of thoughts, am quite fascinated by relationships, read a lot about the subject, have had many conversations on the subject, and am quite good at summing up the sum of my conversations in blog form. Which is why I’m now doing a mini series on Donuts & Dating – some questions we didn’t get to, some donut places I love. (You’re welcome, y’all)
First things first –
Dating should be simple
Should be, but it rarely is, right? Dating should be, “Do you want to go to coffee / dinner / on a date?”, preferably asked in person, followed by a clear “yes” or “no”. But it’s become texting late into the night, ambiguous Facebook messaging at random times, and unclear “Hey lets hangout some time….” messages. It’s “talking” and “taking it slow”… which far too often means not going anywhere, really. It should be simple – clear motives, blatant answers, an obvious trajectory of movement.
So if you’re asking someone out, be clear you’re asking them out. As in use the word “date”, make sure it’s a question, and probably do it in person (at the very least over the phone!). If you’re the one getting asked out, be clear about your answer. As in, say yes or no, don’t lie about your feelings, and don’t lead someone on out of pity.
Dating should be mature
Once again, should be. When I worked with high schoolers, one of the things I got asked most often was “How do I know I’m ready to date?” / “When is the right time to start dating?” I told everyone the same thing: when you know who you are & you know what you’re looking for. That takes an incredible amount of maturity – which some people have at 16 and other people are still missing at 26. When you know who you are, it’s pretty easy to know what matters to you, what you aren’t interested in, what values you aren’t going to back down on. When you know what you’re looking for, you aren’t going to waste anyone’s time – yours or the other person’s – in a relationship going no where. When you know what you’re looking for, you can clearly say no to things or people who you see no future with. When you know what you’re looking for, you don’t get emotionally invested in relationships that are unhealthy.
Christian dating is full of way too much pressure
WAY. TOO. MUCH. I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep saying it – the church puts way too much emphasis on marriage, and, by default, can tend to treat dating relationships like marriage relationships prematurely. I have countless stories of pastors joking about my marriage to guys I’d only been dating a few months, friends planning my wedding hashtag before I went to coffee with a boy, or groups reacting to a boy asking me out like they would to a proposal. We need to caaaaaaaalm dooooooown.
My biggest encouragement for church groups of young singles is to let each other date each other – take off the pressure, turn down the gossip, just let things happen. It’s so hard to date in a healthy way when people are watching your every move, discussing your latest Instagram post, or whispering about how so-and-so just asked out so-and-so. Give people freedom to go to coffee once or twice, and decide they’d rather just be friends. Allow people to date for a few months and then break it off quietly, without it being the latest drama of college group. And provide people who decide to pursue a serious relationship a healthy community to cheer them on, rally alongside them, and continually point them to Jesus. We should be excited about new relationships – I’m not saying don’t be. We just need to be realistically excited – dating isn’t married, official isn’t engaged, and break ups aren’t to be dissected like the latest episode of The Bachelor.
Dating should be fun
Dating can be stressful, nerve wracking, unknown and all that jazz- but it should also be fun. At least sometimes. You don’t need to be sitting across from each other at Starbucks figuring out if their life plan is compatible with your life plan – how about swap embarrassing high school stories? There’s no need to figure out if they are The One on date number one – instead just see if you like spending an hour alone with them. Playing Ideal-Spouse-Bingo in your head is not a fun way to enjoy an evening, but actually getting to know another human being is pretty enjoyable. Don’t forget to actually like dating – it’s supposed to be a pleasurable experience.
Now that that’s over and done with, tomorrow – and all week long – I’ll be answering questions galore (aka two-ish a day)!
My Donuts & Dating mini series is questions we didn’t get to answer, extra thoughts of mine on the subject, and – of course – my favorite donut spots in San Diego.
These were my initial thoughts on dating, be sure to read about staying friends with your exes & emotional boundaries, dating with intention & when to break up with someone, how to make yourself attractive & when to ask someone out, annnnnnnnd everyone’s number one question for me: online dating.